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CAGES, PERCHES AND TOYS
FAQ provided by rec.pets.birds

Comments, suggestions, chocolates to: Jodi Giannini (giannini@nova.umd.edu). This FAQ, as a collection of information, is copyrighted 1993, by Jodi L. Giannini, and distribution by means other than Usenet is by permission only. Removal of this copyright notice is not permitted.
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INDEX


CAGES PERCHES TOYS
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CAGES


Q. What size cage do I need to get for my bird?

A. Get the largest you can possibly afford. his is where the bird will spend a great deal of it's time. A good rule of thumb is that the bird should be able to stretch out its wings fully in at least one direction. Note that "outstretched wing length" refers to the span of the *unclipped* wings.

Q. Is bar spacing important?

A. Yes. If it is too large, a smaller bird could hang itself. 1 3/16 is a good space for medium birds and 1 3/8 is good for larger. 3/4 inch spacing is fine for cockatiels, smaller than that for finches. (respectively 3.02, 3.50, and 1.90 cm)

Q. What about horizontal vs. vertical bars?

A. Horizontal bars are nice for the birds because they're easy to climb. Vertical bars make it hard to climb, but don't fray long tailfeathers. Cages are now available that have vertical front and back bars and horizontal side bars. This should please everyone.

Q. What kind of metal is used for the cages?

A. Anodized aluminum, Brass, stainless steel, wrought iron. For some of the smaller cages for less destructive birds, wood and clear acrylic sheeting, like Plexiglas(tm), may be used.

Q. I'd like a colored cage...can I get one?

A. Some cages are available with a "powder coat finish" so you can get them in different colors, however, birds can eventually gnaw the finish off. There are epoxy painted cages as well. Some cages come in wood cabinets, and you can order custom designs to match your decor.

Q. Do I need a wrought iron cage with those fancy curlicues?

A. Nope. The fancy stuff can be hard to clean, and the bird can get caught in it.

Q. What's a knock down cage?

A. It's a cage that comes shipped flat and unassembled. Nut and bolt assemblies hold it together. Be careful if you have a mechanically inclined bird, it might loosen screws. Check the every so often. One piece cages are just that. They're completely assembled and welded together.

Q. I've seen great deals on cages, should I get one?

A. Sure, as long as it's sturdy and safe. Check for sharp corners, poor latches, shoddy paint. Paint can be toxic and if the bird gnaws on it disaster could ensue. Look at the welds. Are they smooth and virtually invisible? Give the cage a good shake. Does it stand firm, or sway precariously? This is your bird's house we're talking about, here. When in doubt, don't buy it. Be extra careful about imported cages, they can be painted with lead paint or be shoddily made. One thing that is often ignored is the tray in the bottom of the cage. Make sure it has smooth, finished edges. I recently came across a cage that looked great, until I pulled out the tray. It was simply a piece of galvanized metal with a front lip. The back and sides weren't finished, and they were rather sharp. Even with a grate, I wouldn't use such a tray. Improbable accidents do happen, and I wouldn't want my birds to lose a toe or worse because I wanted to save a few bucks.

Q. I don't have the money for a new cage, how about a used one?

A. As long as the bird didn't die of some contagious disease, it should be fine. Disinfect the cage thoroughly. One text I came across suggests taking a portable blowtorch and searing the cage. This would definitely kill any yuckies, but would melt anything other than a thick steel or iron cage. A disinfectant used in avaries would probably be great.

Q. Where should the cage be placed?

A. Never in direct sunlight! But a bright area close to the hubbub of your household is ideal. There should be no drafts of hot or cold air. The kitchen, due to fumes, flames, and such is a poor idea. Dreary basements are a poor choice too. A finished basement is fine, as long as it's not damp and has good circulation and there's action going on that the bird can be part of.

Q. Do I really need to cover the cage?

A. Depends on the bird. Birds, like people, need undisturbed sleep. If the bird is in a room you can darken, then no, you don't need a cover. Sometimes, the bird may be scared of the covered cage. Other times, birds may refuse to go to sleep if the cage isn't covered, and will holler for it. If you turn down the heat in your house at night, covering the cage is really a good idea. You can get custom covers made to fit any size or shape or use a sheet or a blanket. Covering a cage can help reduce screaming at the break of day.

Q. How do I clean the bird's cage?

A. Warm, soapy water and a sponge work well. You may want to use some sort of disinfectant. Rinse well no matter what, and make sure that everything is dry before putting the bird back in.

Q. What should I use for as a tray liner?

A. There are several options, and much debate over what is best. You could use: no liner, gravel paper, plain newsprint paper, shavings, processed cobs, newspaper. Birds should not ingest any of the above, although plain paper isn't harmful, it will get soiled. A grid above the tray will prevent ingestion of liner material and any dropped and soiled food. Newspaper itself is not toxic, but some inks are. You can call your local paper to find out what type of ink they use. Soy-based inks are non-toxic. No liner means you've got to scrub out the pan, to which the poop has probably cemented itself. Processed cobs can actually be used with or without a grid, but make sure your bird doesn't eat them. There is commercially prepared gravel paper, but it's hard to find in the larger sizes and the gravel usually doesn't stick to it very well, and ends up all over.

HELP! My bird is an escape artist!


Sammy, the green-cheeked conure (Pyrrhura molinae) kept escaping from his cage via the sliding door, and the food accesses. I "wired" them shut with Quick Links(tm)--c-type links. They were easier than messing with those plastic "pine tree" type garbage bag ties. You may have to use padlocks with larger birds. However some of them are *very* mechanically inclined (especially Cockatoos) and may very well pick the lock. For the die hard cases, use combination locks.

SOURCES FOR CAGES:

*Note: I went shopping for cages. These I wrote to.
Animal Environments
2270 Camino Vida Roble, Ste. 1
Carlsbad, CA, 92009
Inglebrook Forges
151 N. San Dimas Canyon Rd.
San Dimas, CA, 91773
King's Aviary
256-8 Craft Ave.
Rosedale, NY 11422
Quisenberry Enterprises
915 Glen Arrow Hwy.
Glendora, CA, 91740
The Pet Ranch
This is who I ultimately purchased from:
3015 Pioneer Way
Jamul, CA, 91935
(619) 669 - 1089
A wrought iron Macaw cage (24 x 36 x 65 inches)
was 249.00 plus 54.29 shipping (from CA to MD,
mind you). A Cockatoo cage was 199.00 (don't
know shipping) (prices as of 10/14/93).


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PERCHES


Q. What kinds of perch(es) does my bird need?

A. Your bird needs an assortment of perches of varying diameter, to provide exercise, to prevent foot injuries and such ailments as sores and arthritis.

Q. Where should the perches go?

A. Your bird should be able to climb all over his cage, so place the perches accordingly. Stagger them, and make sure there's enough clearance for the bird to sit up comfortably. Nobody likes to bonk their head!

Q. What can the perch be made of?

A. Wood--the plain round ones are everywhere. There's manzanita and madrone, maple, and apple wood. They can be made from PVC and from acrylic, like Plexiglas(tm) but these should be sanded slightly to roughen up the otherwise slick surface. There are rope perches, there are even concrete perches, like Polly Perfect(tm) which help to keep beak and nails in trim.

Q. What shape should the perch be?

A. They range from round to flat to elliptical. Provide at least two different shapes. The different shapes and textures keeps muscles healthy, nails trimmed and prevents sores on the feet.

Q. What about those sandpaper perches?

A. Okay, but make absolutely certain the bird has another perch to sit on. Or only cover half the perch with the sandpaper cover.

Q. Rope perches in the pet store are expensive! Can I get them elsewhere?

A. Sure. It was posted to the net that they can be purchased at boating suppliers. Make sure you get all cotton-rope that hasn't been treated with chemicals. Ropes are great for feather-pickers, but watch out for fraying, and replace the rope when it gets too frizzy. Booda Bones(tm) makes Byrdy Cable(R) rope bird perches if you'd rather buy them from a pet store.

Q. Can I make my own perches?

A. Definitely. Use wood that you know is untreated, and cure it. Make sure there's no bugs or anything nasty like that in or on the wood. Cure it until it's thoroughly dried out. Leave the bark on, birds love to peel it off.

T-stand type perches are useful aides in the training of your birds. We use one for the conure's "potty."

SOURCES FOR PERCHES


Manufacturers of cages will often offer perches.
Manufacturers of toys will sometimes offer perches.

Aries Manufacturing (Manzanita perches)
4480 Treat Blvd. Ste. 201
Concord, CA, 9421
Avian Adventures (acrylic)
Warren, MI, 48902-0136
$2.00 for brochure, refunded with order.




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BIRDIE TOYS


As has already been mentioned, birds are playful and intelligent. A bored bird is a dead bird, basically. So it stands to reason that birds like--and need playthings.

Q. What size toy do I need for my bird?

A. Well, a big bird needs a big toy, and a small bird, a small toy. If you give the bird the wrong-sized toy, injury is possible. Most toys are labelled for small, medium, large, and extra-large birds.

Q. What kind of toy should I buy?

A. Depends on the bird. Some love bells, some like twirly, spinning toys, some like rawhide leather to chew on. Some prefer "hand-held" toys over those that hang from the cage. Wood is a good choice for any bird, it exercises the beak. Fabric is excellent for feather-pluckers. It all depends on your bird, and sometimes, finding the right kind of toy can be a hit-or-miss endeavor.

Q. How many toys should the bird have?

A. The bird should have a variety of toys, but only two or so in the cage at a time. Rotate the toys about every two to three weeks so the bird doesn't get bored.

Q. My bird seems terrified of the new toy, what do I do?

A. Some birds can be suspicious of any new thing, including toys. It seems that a lot of African Greys are like this. The best thing to do is to put the toy on the floor of the cage or playpen. When the bird starts poking at it and taking and interest, then try hanging it up.

HELP! My bird HATES the twenty dollar toy I bought for it!***


Try putting it on the floor of the cage (see previous question). If this doesn't work, then you're pretty much out twenty dollars. Taste is a personal thing, and birds definitely do have preferences. Don't be upset or mad at the bird if it didn't like what you picked out. And definitely do not stop giving your bird toys!

Q. One bird chews, one bird plucks. Are there any special toys for them?

A. For chewers, try wood toys, if they destroy that, try an acrylic, which will last longer. Manzanita wood is really hard, too. Try toys by Manzanita Munchies and Naughty Acrylics(tm). For pluckers, try rope toys, like Byrdy Cable(r) by Booda Bone(tm) or the Polly Dolly(tm) by Lucia. The Polly Dolly(tm) has lots of different colors and cloth to pick at.

Q. How do I clean the toys?

A. A mild soap and warm water will usually do the trick. Rinse and rinse and rinse, and then dry well.

Q. What are some dangers of toys?

A. Hanging, either by getting caught in a clip used to attach the toy, (avoid those metal shower curtain hangers) or by getting wrapped up in a leather strip, or a getting hooked in a chain. Fibers from rope and cloth toys can be wrapped around toes, cutting off circulation and resulting in the loss of a toe or even a foot. If the toy is shoddily made from cheap materials, it might break off, and parts could be ingested. Paint might be toxic. Make certain that the clapper in the bell cannot be pulled out and eaten. Make sure the bell, clapper or other metal toys do not contain lead or lead paint. Be careful how you attach a toy. Some birds can unscrew C-links and might tighten them onto a toe or their tongue. Others seem to always get tangled in hanging ropes or chains. If this is the case, give your bird a "hand-held" toy when you can't be around, and carefully observe playtime with hanging toys.

Q. Can I use some household items for toys?

A. Sure. Toilet paper *tubes* (not the toilet paper) seem to be resounding favorites, and they're cheap! Ping-pong balls are popular, along with ball-point pen tubes (with the ink cartridge removed). We have a ten-speed set up as an exercise bike in the living room, and our four birds love to "go biking" more than anything. Plastic measuring spoons and cups work well, and Josie the cockatiel loves to play with the plastic caps to soda bottles. But one of the best ideas has to come from rackney@ecn.purdue.edu (Larry J. Brackney) who writes:

" My wife and I are firm believers in giving our birds baby toys. They are typically MUCH cheaper than bird toys, and generally hard to destroy. All of our birds love interlocking plastic toys: hearts, fish, etc. And you can buy them at discount and toy stores.

We also have good luck getting toys at the local Goodwill. They usually have a bin of $0.25 baby toys (plastic doo-dads, teething rings, etc.). We usually pick through them, and try to pick out toys without small parts that can be broken and swallowed. Once home, we wash and sterilize the toys."

SOURCES FOR TOYS

These are ones I've seen in my local pet shops.


B is for Bird Toy
6740 William Ln
Lincoln, CA, 95648
Fowl Play
108 Charmont Dr.
Radford, VA, 24141
Polly Dolly Texture Toy
P.O. Box 997
Comfort, TX, 78013
Thee Birdie Bordello
P.O. Box 2906
El Segundo, CA, 90245


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Copyright June 1996. All Rights Reserved.